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The Digital Substation Utopia

By Gerry Fox

Electric utilities have long considered digital substations an insubstantial concept: an ideal vision of all-knowing substations networked into an intelligent grid. However, technological innovations have slowly emerged in the past few decades, consequently, transforming this utopian vision into a practical—and very real—concept. Now, utility executives can discuss the available specifics that can transform legacy substations into well-networked digitally automated powerhouses.

One practical innovation, digital signaling, offers substations excellent reliability and capacity. Electric utilities have used this technology in their power infrastructure for decades. Most existing electricity grids employ digital fiber-optic networks for the reliable and efficient transport of operation and supervision data from automation systems in substations—and even power line networks carry tele-protection signals. Only now are the advantages of standardized digital messaging starting to extend into the deeper substation environment.

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